3 OF 7 LEARNING DISABILITIES: DYSGRAPHIA
DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
Your child has awkward looking arm and body positions when writing. Your child grips his pencil or pen so hard that he complains that his hand cramps up or hurts. You notice that your child’s spoken vocabulary is much richer than his writing vocabulary. All of these may be nothing, or they may indicate that your child is suffering from a little known neurological condition known as DYSGRAPHIA.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT
Dysgraphia is the number 3 of 7 learning disabilities listed in my November 1, 2019 article “Help For The Learning Disabled Child”, [article]. As I have said before, it is important to discuss each of these 7 learning disabilities because each, although not well-known nor recognized by most parents, afflicts a significant number of children and adults. Significantly, each of these disabilities has a collateral effect on the behavior responses to normal circumstances. This is often incorrectly perceived by those around the afflicted child or adult, particularly his parents and teachers, as being intentionally disruptive.
The truth is that this behavior is hardly intentional. It is the result of the frustration of not being able to do what other people do so easily.
WHY READ THIS POST!
It is my hope that after reading this article you will have a better understanding of what dysgraphia is and of the warning behaviors to look for. You also should note that I talk about dysgraphia as afflicting both children and adults. This is because many children suffering from dyscalculia do not receive proper help as a child, and carry the condition into adulthood, or the dysgraphia arises from some form of brain trauma or stroke that occurs in adulthood.
The total number of people with dysgraphia cannot be accounted for due to the difficulty in diagnosing dysgraphia. What is known, however, is that the number of students with dysgraphia increases from 4% in primary grades to up to 20% in middle school when written compositions become more complex
WHAT IS DYSGRAPHIA
Dysgraphia is primarily a writing learning disability that affects a person’s handwriting ability. Problems may include fine-motor-muscle control of the hands and/or processing difficulties. Sometimes occupational therapy is helpful for those with dysgraphia. Most successful students with dysgraphia that does not respond to occupational therapy or extra writing help use a typewriter, computer, or verbal communication as a substitute for hand-writing. MedicineNet.
Dysgraphia results in a person’s writing being distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write wrong or misspelled words, despite thorough instruction. Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities; however, they usually have no social or other academic problems. Cases of dysgraphia in adults generally occur after some trauma. In addition to poor handwriting, dysgraphia is characterized by wrong or odd spelling, and production of words that are not correct (i.e., using “boy” for “child”). The cause of the disorder is unknown, but in adults, it is usually associated with damage to the parietal lobe of the brain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The ability to write is a fundamental part of basic literacy, and is crucial for success not only in school but also in most workplace environments. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of children suffer from developmental dysgraphia—that is, impairment in acquisition of writing skills. See, Döhla D, & Heim S (2016). Developmental dyslexia and dysgraphia: What can we learn from the one about the other? Frontiers in psychology, 6, 2045. [PMC free article] Döhla & Heim (2016)
It has been recently estimated that 7–15% of school-age children exhibit some form of development writing deficit. Developmental Dysgraphia: An Overview and Framework for Research, Michael McCloskey, Brenda Rapp, 2017.
WHEN A CHILD SUFFERS FROM DYSGRAPHIA —
A child who suffers from dysgraphia suffers more than just disruption of the acquisition of basic writing skills. For children with this condition any writing assignment is an ordeal. These children struggle to spell words correctly or even to write in a legible fashion. This leads to frustration which
diverts the child from benefiting from the more important aspects of the learning assignment. The struggle to write a paragraph interferes with the child’s understanding and learning from the work or reading assignment.
Nor are the detrimental effects of developmental dysgraphia limited to children. Adults with significant developmental writing deficits may face limitations in career choice or advancement, as well as experiencing difficulty with everyday tasks that draw upon writing skills.
CAN YOU RECOGNIZE DYSGRAPHIA IN YOUR CHILD?
Parents should always be watching out for potential problems their children may be having. The difficulty is in being knowledgeable enough to recognize behaviors that suggest deeper concerns than may be apparent on the surface. Specifically for dysgraphia, a parent should at least be aware of these common behaviors:
1. A cramped grip when writing, which may lead to sore hand tiring quickly while writing
2. Difficulty spacing things out on paper
3. Frequent erasing
4. Inconsistency in letter and word spacing
5. Poor spelling, including unfinished words
6. Missing words or letters
7. Unusual wrist, body or paper position while writing
8. Difficulty writing and thinking at same time, such as with creative writing, taking notes
9. Trouble thinking of words to write
10. Trouble organizing thoughts on paper
11. Large gaps between oral spoken language and written expression
12. Mixed upper and lower case letters
13. Misuse of lines and margins
14. Inefficient speed of copying
15. Inattentiveness over details when writing
16. Frequent need of verbal cues
17. Difficulty visualizing letter formation beforehand
18. Poor legibility
HOW DOES DYSGRAPHIA AFFECT A PERSON?
As defined by the National Center For Learning Disabilities, dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Some individuals with dysgraphia may be able to improve their writing ability, but for others, the disorder persists. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Dysgraphia is not limited to any specific age, gender or intelligence. It is not affected by intelligence or cognitive ability, but is often hidden behind verbal fluency. In many cases, a child with dysgraphia often has other learning disabilities, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and oral and written language learning disability [trouble placing words in right order in a sentence and difficulty remembering words]
When a person has dysgraphia, the impairment of the ability to write is not the only detriment suffered. Having dysgraphia often causes great emotional trauma due the child’s difficulty in writing and the fact that no one can read the child’s writing. This often leads to impaired self-esteem, lowered self-efficacy, heightened anxiety, and depression. This condition often results in stress, due to frustration with the task of writing.
HOW IS DYSGRAPHIA TYPICALLY TREATED?
Dysgraphia is difficult to diagnose. It usually requires a team of experts, such as a physician, a psychologist, and other mental health professionals, occupational therapists, and special education teachers. Treatment usually includes treatment for motor disorders to control writing movements, occupational therapy to address impaired memory and other neurological problems. The use of computers to avoid writing problems is generally incorporated into any treatment program. Also, various methods are taught to mitigate the condition that take effort and training.
WHAT CAN SCHOOL DO TO HELP YOUR CHILD COPE?
A school can provide individual accommodations to allow for alternative ways for your child to do school work. Such as providing:
• A designated note taker in the classroom
• Use of a computer for notes and other assignments
• Giving your child oral exams and assignments, instead of written ones
• Allowing your child extra time on tests and assignments
• Providing your child with lesson or lecture notes provided by the teacher as printouts, recordings, or in digital form
Strategies suggested by the LDA of California and UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute “Q.U.I.L.T.S.” Calendar 2001-2002, might include the following:
• Suggest use of word processor
• Avoid chastising student for sloppy, careless work
• Use oral exams
• Allow use of tape recorder for lectures
• Allow the use of a note taker
• Provide notes or outlines to reduce the amount of writing required
• Reduce copying aspects of work (pre-printed math problems)
• Allow use of wide rule paper and graph paper
• Suggest use of pencil grips and /or specially designed writing aids
• Provide alternatives to written assignments (video-taped reports, audio-taped reports)
• Be given explicit, comprehensive instructions, with review and revision of assignments
Of all the ways you can help, one is especially important. Showing your child that you’re there to help and giving the right type of praise to build self-esteem and confidence. It can also help your child stay motivated to work on writing skills.
Here is a recommended computer for your child. It is durable and ideal for school use by a child with dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia is a serious learning disability. Hopefully this article has given you a useful introduction to the many aspects of dysgraphia to help in recognizing whether your child might be afflicted with this condition. If you see some of the identified characteristics pointed out in this article, my recommendation is to delve further into educating yourselves about this affliction. Doing a Google search on the Internet would be a good starting place.
And if you are serious about helping your child, no matter his/her age, purchasing a book or two on the subject that explains dysgraphia and how you can help your child work through it, is definitely one of the best ways to educate yourself. Here are several books for that purpose:;
Click ont the image to see information on the book.
Please feel free to leave a comment if this article was helpful, or leave a question for me to answer.
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